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Monday, July 16, 2012

Nora Ephron wrote for more than the movies

Nora Ephron, who died Tuesday at 71, grew up in Beverly Hills as the child of two Hollywood screenwriters and became a screenwriter and director herself. But she began her career as a reporter for Manhattan newspapers and magazines and wrote several best-selling books, including:

Nora Ephron was best known for her witty written dialogue in 1989's By Charles Sykes, AP

Nora Ephron was best known for her witty written dialogue in 1989's "When Harry Met Sally."

By Charles Sykes, AP

Nora Ephron was best known for her witty written dialogue in 1989's "When Harry Met Sally."

Wallflower at the Orgy (Vintage, $15). First published in 1970, this collection of magazine articles and essays was reissued in 1980 with a new introduction by Ephron and again in 2007 after the success of I Feel Bad About My Neck. Wallflower features the young Ephron's profiles of people such as Cosmopolitan magazine's Helen Gurley Brown and Ayn Rand as well as personal essays about food and sex. Because these articles were written in the 1960s, much of the material seems dated and some of the subjects will be unknown to those under 40. But Ephron's introduction about her career as a journalist remains startlingly perceptive today. At the New York Post, she learned to write short, sharp and, most of all, to avoid boring the reader.

Heartburn (Vintage, $14). "Everything is copy," Ephron's mother once said, and clearly her daughter was listening. Published in 1983, Ephron's debut novel clearly draws from the infamous breakup of Ephron's second marriage to Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter made famous by Watergate and the father of her two sons. In this roman à clef, Rachel Samstat is a cookbook author and seven months pregnant. Meanwhile, her husband — a man "capable of having sex with a Venetian blind" — had fallen in love with another woman. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep starred in the film adaptation.

I Feel Bad about My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (Vintage, $13). Published in 2006, this best-selling collection of essays about aging, food and the death of a friend resonated with older female readers around the country. Though written in her trademark witty tone, Ephron takes no prisoners as she debunks the fantasy that getting older is easy or fun. The book also includes wise parenting advice such as: "When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you."

I Remember Nothing (Vintage, $14). In his review of this 2010 collection, USA TODAY's Craig Wilson wrote, "Ephron remembers quite a bit in this entertaining collection of stories about her life so far. Her love affair with journalism. Her two divorces. Her devotion to meatloaf, an entree that New York's Monkey Bar named after her. Yep, Nora's Meatloaf. Just don't look for it on the menu these days. It's been taken off, and yes, she feels a bit hurt by this turn of events. She even vividly remembers her childhood back in Beverly Hills, a childhood filled with movie stars, since her dad was in the business."

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